LAGOS, Dec 21, (AFP): Nigeria’s opposition has rejected a plan to spend a billion dollars of oil money to fight the Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s volatile northeast. Last week, the governor of the southern state of Edo, Godwin Obaseki, told reporters the federal government had been given the nod to withdraw the cash from the country’s Excess Crude Account (ECA).
The account is a buffer drawn from crude oil revenues, jointly owned by the federal government, 36 states and local governments. Nigeria, Africa’s largest crude producer, exports around two million barrels per day and depends on the sector for 70 percent of government revenue and 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings. “We are pleased with the federal government achievements in the insurgency war and in that vein, state governors have approved that the sum of $1 billion be taken from the excess crude account by the federal government to fight the insurgency war to its conclusion,” Obaseki said. Such a sum would nearly halve the $2.3 billion currently in the account. But the decision has sparked a row.
The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has accused the ruling party of planning to use the money to fund President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election in 2019. Ekiti state governor Ayodele Fayose of the PDP, a critic of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC), said he was launching legal action. “All accruals to the federation must be shared by the three tiers of government and for me to get justice, I have to go to court,” he said on Tuesday.
Local media quoted Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as saying the money was not only meant to fight Boko Haram but to tackle other security challenges such as kidnappings, trafficking, cattle rustling and clashes between herdsmen and farmers. “The $1 billion is meant to assist the security architecture of the country. It is to cater to all of the issues in the states, including policing in the states, community policing, and all of the different security challenges that we have,” he said. Although both the Nigerian military and government have repeatedly said Boko Haram is a spent force, the Islamists have continued to carry out bomb and gun attacks in the restive northeast.